Pope Francis meets with Colombian nun freed in Mali
‘I am very happy. I stayed healthy for five years, thank God,’ says Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez
Pope Francis met Sunday with a Colombian nun who was freed the previous day by militants in Mali after more than four years in captivity, the Vatican said.
Gloria Cecilia Narvaez was kidnapped on Feb. 7, 2017 in southern Mali near the border with Burkina Faso while doing missionary work by the Macina Liberation Front, an al-Qaeda-linked group.
After travelling to Rome, Narvaez met the Pope, said the Vatican, a day after she met with Mali’s interim President Assimi Goita.
Her meeting with Pope Francis took place before the celebration of a holy mass for the beginning of the synodal process at St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican said.
The 59-year-old Franciscan nun said she was grateful to Malian authorities for all the efforts towards liberating her.
“I am very happy. I stayed healthy for five years, thank God,” she said.
In a statement Saturday, Mali’s presidency saluted the courage and bravery of the nun, saying her liberation was a culmination of four years and eight months of combined efforts by several intelligence services.
It was not immediately clear whether Narvaez was freed following a ransom payment.
The Archbishop of Bamako, Jean Zerbo, also thanked Malian authorities and other “good people who made her release possible.”
“We have prayed long and hard for this day,” he said.
Regular reports on the nun’s safety provided reassurance as two Europeans who escaped from captivity earlier this year reported that Sister Gloria was still alive. In March, her brother reportedly received a letter written and signed by her through the Red Cross.
Mali has been battling an insurgency linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh/ISIS terrorist groups since 2012, when unrest erupted in the north of the West African country.
The violence, which has killed thousands of civilians and troops, has spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.
On Saturday, Goita reassured the Malian people and the international community that “efforts are still underway to secure the release of all persons, Malians and foreigners, held captive on Malian territory.”
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